260 B. POLEVOI
On the very first day, Meresyev went to the airfield to
look for Lieutenant Naumov, the instructor of Unit Three,
in whose charge he had been placed. Naumov, a short!
very vivacious man with a big head and long arms, was
running near the "T" sign looking up into the sky where
a tiny plane was flying in the "sector". Railing at the
pilot who was in the plane, the instructor was yelling:
"Bloody packing-case! Bag of ... silver! Says he was
in Fighter Command! He can't fool me!"
Meresyev stepped up to introduce himself and saluted
in the regulation manner, but Naumov only waved his
hand, pointed to the sky and shouted:
"See that? Tighter'. Terror of the air'! Flopping about
like ... like a daisy in an ice hole----"
Alexei at once took a liking to the instructor. He liked
these slightly crazy men who were head over heels in
love with their work, and with whom a capable and
zealous airman could easily get on. He made a few prac-
tical remarks about the way the pilot in the air was flying.
The little lieutenant looked him up and down with a
critical eye and inquired:
"Coining into my unit? What's your name? What type
of craft have you flown? Have you been in action? How
long is it since you have been up?"
Alexei was not sure whether the lieutenant heard all
his replies, for he again looked up into the sky and, shad-
ing his eyes from the sun with one hand, shook his other
fist and yelled:
"Bloody wheelbarrow!... Look at him veering! Like
a hippopotamus in a drawing-room!"
He ordered Alexei to turn up first thing next morning
and promised to "give him a trial" at once.
"Go and take a rest now," he said. "You need it after
your journey. Have you had any grub? In the confusion
here, they can forget to feed you, you know___Clumsy
idiot! Wait till I get you down here, I'll show you
Alexei did not turn in to take a rest, the more so that
it seemed to be warmer in the airfield, across which the
wind was driving dry and prickly sand, than in class-
room "9a", the sleeping quarters he had been assigned to.
He found a shoemaker in the battalion and gave him his